COVID-19 cases drop as vaccination is rolled out

Eva Philips, Staff writer

It has now been over a year since the start of the pandemic, and no part of the United States has been left unscathed. Erie County is no exception.

In the span of the last year, Erie County has reported over 18,000 cases of COVID-19, with over 400 deaths.

In comparison to the rest of the state, Erie County has fared relatively well. Currently, Erie County is experiencing a downward trend in COVID-19 cases. The fourteen-day average for new cases has dropped below the county’s peak, which occurred on Dec. 25, 2020.

On March 15, the county reported just eight new cases. This is the lowest number of new daily cases reported in five months, since October.

These metrics all provide hope, but health officials still urge caution. Many mild cases may be going unnoticed, especially as allergy season ramps up.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recently identified Erie County’s first case of the UK COVID-19 virus variant. Though not necessarily surprising, this does raise concerns, as the UK variant is more transmissible than the initial strain, and may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses.

Despite these lingering challenges, the rollout of vaccines provides reason for hope. Pennsylvania has been a leader in vaccine distribution, having already distributed roughly four million doses.

Erie County specifically has done well with vaccine distribution. Around 60,000 people have received at least their first vaccination, while over 30,000 are fully vaccinated as of mid-March. This puts the total of individuals who have received at least one shot at 21 percent — a fifth of the county population. Vaccination rates are highest among older individuals, aged 65 and up.

Thanks to vaccination initiatives, that figure is set to rise throughout the spring. Erie County is working to meet Governor Tom Wolf’s goal of having all Pennsylvania residents who meet requirements for Phase 1A vaccinated or scheduled for vaccination by the end of March.

After Phase 1A vaccination is complete, those at lower risk of serious illness from COVID-19 will be able to register for vaccination.

Additionally, some of Erie County’s most essential workers have been prioritized for vaccination. Clinics throughout Erie County administered vaccines to teachers and school staff from the county as well as from neighboring Warren and Crawford Counties.

Within the city of Erie, the community is coming together to organize vaccinations. Recently, the Booker T. Washington Center partnered with Walmart to set up a clinic capable of vaccinating hundreds per day.

Rite Aid and other pharmacies, as well as local clinics and primary care providers have also been busy vaccinating. Even Mercyhurst was able to secure the vaccine for limited numbers.

For all those who have been vaccinated, whether through Mercyhurst or otherwise, you should use the form sent to students and staff to notify Mercyhurst of this by uploading a photo of your vaccination record card.

Despite all these positives, the vaccination program has faced challenges. Within Erie County and across the state, many have put their names on vaccine waitlists and have been unable to schedule an appointment. This is due to inconsistencies in the supply of vaccine doses from the state of Pennsylvania.

However, the county expects an influx of vaccines within the next few weeks, with the hopes of continuing Phase 1A vaccinations and clearing out waitlists.

Though it is unclear when exactly vaccination will be available to all adults within Erie County, President Biden has urged that all states make this possible by May 1, 2021 so that all Americans can be vaccinated by May.

In the meantime, all those eligible for vaccination under Phase 1A should seek out vaccination as soon as possible in order to do their part to protect their own health and the health of the community. We will hopefully all be fully vaccinated as a college and a country very soon.